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This chapter considers the unobtrusive words, the conjunctions, and the grammar of Victorian realist prose, drawing on examples from Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant and Anthony Trollope. The styles of Victorian realist fiction are shown to lodge within their very grammar a psychology of style; they register in the turns and returns of their sentences, in their ‘forms of retardation, inference, and backwards-reappraisal’, thinking and reflection from within the midst of narrated experience.
Though the history of sexuality has diversified and enlarged our understanding of Victorian culture and practices, literary criticism, influenced by the courtship plots of canonical novels, has lagged behind. Even as we denounced a generation of historians and scholars for thinking Victorians were repressed, we canonized a literature based on heteronormative courtship narratives and traditional gender roles. We then critiqued that literature for adhering to – or championed it for subverting – those traditional narratives. In fact, Victorian fiction was always wilder and woollier than we gave it credit for being. Drawing on multiple novels, including examples by Wilkie Collins, William Ainsworth, and George Meredith, as well as the history of sexuality, including texts by Elizabeth Blackwell and Havelock Ellis, this essay surveys instances in which non-reproductive sexuality – pre- and extramarital flirtations, same-sex eroticism, desirous ephebes, and other kinds of non-genital or unconsummated sexual activities – are presented as typical behaviors within the novel. Just as conventional marital plots provide form for instances of what scholars have understood as managed desire, these texts suggest other formal possibilities and properties – rather than arcs of crisis and resolution, they may offer more episodic structures of sustained, oscillating, or unresolved tensions.
Philosophy and social science assume that reason and cause are objective and universally applicable concepts. Through close readings of ancient and modern philosophy, history and literature, Richard Ned Lebow demonstrates that these concepts are actually specific to time and place. He traces their parallel evolution by focusing on classical Athens, the Enlightenment through Victorian England, and the early twentieth century. This important book shows how and why understandings of reason and cause have developed and evolved, in response to what kind of stimuli, and what this says about the relationship between social science and the social world in which it is conducted. Lebow argues that authors reflecting on their own social context use specific constructions of these categories as central arguments about the human condition. This highly original study will make an immediate impact across a number of fields with its rigorous research and the development of an innovative historicised epistemology.
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